After all of the weird weather Southern California has faced so far this year, the mere fact we've made it to spring must be classed as encouraging. Couple that with an early Easter holiday, and logic decrees that it's time for a welcome holiday celebration. So let's get to it.
Easter is a most appropriate time to splurge on a whole ham, even if yours is a small family. Granted, the thought of living with ham leftovers forever may horrify you, but that's easily avoided if you consider Easter a perfect excuse for a party and collect a batch of family and friends to help celebrate both the holiday and the arrival of spring.
Most of the whole hams readily available today are already "fully cooked." You can, of course, serve these cold with no further treatment. They do, however, taste better when cooked a little longer. So why not gussy one up a bit for the holiday? It's easy to do, for essentially all that is required to turn out a culinary masterpiece of this sort is to heat it through and top it with a light, fruity glaze.
If you're really feeling energetic, you can go even farther and have the butcher remove the bone from the ham, leaving you with a nice pocket to fill with an aromatic stuffing. Or do the boning yourself, if you're daring. Merle Ellis, who writes "The Butcher" column for The Times, gives tips on how to do this on Page 18. A boned ham, stuffed with a rich corn bread dressing, can be a carver's delight. Or, if that sounds like too much work, take the easy way out and leave the bone in. In that case serve the corn bread dressing separately in one of your prettiest casseroles.
You'll find a suggested menu for a festive holiday ham meal on this page. And just in case you'd rather serve something besides ham this year, we've included another menu featuring a celebration dinner built around a spring leg of lamb.
Easter Menu I
Easter Ham With Cornbread Dressing
Saucy Asparagus or Brussels Sprouts and Carrots in Lemon Butter
Green Beans Lyonnaise or Artichoke Ratatouille
Springtime Banana Salad
EASTER HAM WITH CORN BREAD DRESSING
1 (12- to 14-pound) whole, fully cooked ham
Corn Bread Dressing
1 (6-ounce) can pineapple juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 fresh pineapple, peeled
Have butcher bone ham or do it yourself. Prepare Corn Bread Dressing and spoon in cavity left in ham by bone. Press meat around dressing, reforming ham to original shape. Tie ham together with string. Spoon extra dressing into casserole dish.
Place ham, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan. Score fat diagonally in 1/2-inch slashes to form diamonds. Bake at 325 degrees 18 to 20 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer placed near center of ham registers 140 degrees. (Be sure thermometer is placed in meat, not dressing.)
About 1 hour before ham is done, place 1/4 cup brown sugar, pineapple juice and mustard in small saucepan and heat, stirring, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Baste ham with mixture 2 or 3 times during rest of cooking period. Bake remaining dressing at 325 degrees about 30 minutes or until heated through.
When ham is done, remove from oven and allow to rest 20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, slice pineapple crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place on broiler pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and place under broiler just long enough to brown lightly. To serve, place ham on platter, remove string and place pineapple slices around ham. Makes 18 to 20 servings.
Note: If desired, ham bone may be left in and dressing cooked separately. If entire dressing recipe is cooked separately, increase cooking time to about 45 minutes. Corn Bread Dressing
1 (15-ounce) package corn bread mix
2 tablespoons minced sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons minced green pepper
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups shredded Jack cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth
Prepare corn bread according to package directions. Stir in red and green peppers. Bake according to package directions. Cool in pan.
Meanwhile, saute onions and celery in butter until tender but not brown. Cut corn bread into cubes and place in mixing bowl. Gently mix in onion mixture, cheese and eggs. Moisten with enough chicken broth to hold mixture together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 7 cups dressing. SAUCY ASPARAGUS
2 pounds asparagus
Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce
Clean asparagus and snap woody portion from bottom of stalks. With string, tie asparagus in bundle and stand upright in about 1 inch boiling salted water in deep kettle. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until done as desired. Drain and serve hot with Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce. Makes 6 servings. Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce
1/4 pound butter or margarine
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel